Govert Deketh and Miff Crommelin, co-webmasters of the historical family website, are pleased to present the first Website Wanderings article for the Crommelin Journal. Hopefully it will encourage readers to explore some of our family's interesting history that exists on the Crommelin website, as well as other places on the internet.
For starters we would like to direct your attention to an old Crommelin-Verplanck Bible that resides in New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art. Miff knew about the existence of this old family heirloom because of a 'Met' Bulletin dated November 1941 that his father, Edward, had saved many years ago. Email enquires finally paid off when Amelia Peck, curator of the American History wing of the Metropolitan Museum of Art kindly sent us photos of the inscriptions which recorded births, marriages and deaths of some of our earliest ancestors in America.
A sequel to this article had to be written when Lucy Godwin of Vancouver, B.C. [a descendent of 'Louis of Lisburn' and a keen family historian] visited the 'Met' in December 2011. Lucy managed to obtain pictures of the lavish illustrations inside this old Bible, one of which shows a map of the Pacific some 50 years before Capt. James Cook charted this region of the globe. Of course, little was known about the Pacific Ocean, east coast of Australia, and the west coast of North America in 1715 when this Bible was published, so this region appears blank!
(Left) What the Pacific Ocean looked like in the 1715 Verplanck-Crommelin Bible
(Right) George W. Crommelin [standing at bottom, 3rd from the right] aboard the ill-fated "Maria" a few hours before she departed in 1872.
A gentleman who unwittingly contributed to the knowledge of eastern Australia was George Whiting Crommelin when he took part in an expedition to find gold in Papua-New Guinea in 1872. Some 80 high-spirited young men pooled their resources and purchased a leaky old vessel called the Maria which they hoped would take them from Sydney to the Fly River in Papua during the risky February hurricane season. Many lives were lost when the Maria came to grief on Bramble Reef near Hinchinbrook Island, and many more died when survivors aboard a hastily-made raft landed near Innisfail. They became the victims of hostile cannibals when their raft drifted ashore 5 days after they were shipwrecked. The ambitious search parties that set out to find survivors aboard 3 lifeboats and 2 rafts is what led to the exploration and charting of the shoreline between Cape York and Cardwell - the northern outpost which George Whiting Crommelin eventually reached, and where he was nourished back to health.
Another story on the family website that young people will find exciting is the expedition of Francois Leguat to the deserted isle of Rodriques in the Indian Ocean off Madagascar. Jean Testart, the son of Pierre Testart and Rachel Crommelin, was one of 8 young Huguenots who attempted to settle this island for future habitation. After living there for 2 years, the stranded islanders decided to build a boat to take them to Mauritius. They left their island of tranquility on 20 May 1693 only to arrive at Mauritius which happened to be a Dutch prison colony. Having been taken prisoner, Jean Testart drowned on January 10, 1696 in a vain bid to escape captivity.
Indeed, there are many interesting stories to be found on the Crommelin Family website in which young family members will find excitement, and they will find many good role models too. In other words, we don't have to look to fictional novels or television to find adventure. Our ancestors left us an interesting heritage, and they also beckon us to do our best so that the world might become a better place because of our faith, hopes, dreams, and accomplishments.